Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writing Communities

Writing Communities
for New or Experienced Writers
by CJ Heck

I've had many beginning writers and poets contact me over the years. Most just want simple reassurances. They want to know if their work is good, if it's good enough to get published, and if it isn't, how they can improve their writing skills -- I can certainly relate to what they're feeling.

There's nothing worse than having a burning desire to write, pouring heart and soul into a poem or story, and then wondering ... is it any good? How can I improve how I write? Am I just spinning my wheels? There's also no better feeling than having someone say they appreciate how you write and what you say -- and, if they see where improvements can be made, offer helpful suggestions. I can only speak from my own experience, but I want to help new writers find their assurances -- and constructive help, too, if they need it.

When I started writing a decade ago, I didn't know anyone who had been published. I had done a lot of writing, but I had no one to ask whether I was looking at a possible writing career, or if I had merely found a new hobby to enjoy ... so I went online and joined several writing communities.

Most of the communities have several categories where you can submit your writing: poetry, fiction, short stories, essays, blogs and articles, to name a few. The poetry in most of them is even further broken down into genre categories: children's, erotica/sensual/adult, religious/spiritual, humorous, rhyming, prose poetry, etc.

The real power behind joining a writing community is just that -- being part of a community where everyone is writing and learning about writing. There is feedback on your work when you post it in the form of comments and critiques, both those you give to others, and those you receive; poetry and writing forums; it's an avenue to showcase your work, and yourself, through personal profiles and biographies -- not to mention, joining them creates name recognition, too, for when you DO get something published. People from all over the world will be familiar with who you are and your work. You'll also make lasting friendships with people who have the same interest that you do -- writing.

If you are already published, whether online or with a book or books, it's a good way to help you promote your published work. Some communities allow you to list the titles of your books and where they are available for sale -- an excellent tool for marketing you, and your books!

Here are a few of the writing communities I would suggest:

Authors Den (My Favorite)
The Arcanum Cafe
Worthy of Publishing

I hope this helps!
Happy writing and good luck!

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Lemonade Stand

It's been such a hot and humid summer. As I was driving home from Walmart's the other day, I saw a small homemade lemonade stand set up on the sidewalk. It was constructed like we used to make bookcases back in the late 60's, early 70's, to hold a stereo system. There were two cinder blocks piled one on top of the other at each end and then a board across the top between them.

A handprinted sign was taped to the board and hanging down over the front. Even the sign was perfect for their stand, printed all in caps with crayon, and the 'N' in the word LEMONADE was printed backwards. Of course I pulled over and bought a glass for fifteen cents (I couldn't help myself. I gave them each a quarter tip, too). This is when I met Jacob, age 8, and his little sister, "Sissy" who was 6.

Jacob and Sissy took their business very seriously. Total teamwork. Sissy held the cup, Jacob poured the lemonade from the pitcher, and I drank ALL of my lemonade, even though there wasn't NEARLY enough sugar in it ...

Anyway, I couldn't stop thinking about them and when I got home, I gave my imagination free reign for writing and even put a special little twist on the end of this poem.

Lemonade Stand
by CJ Heck

Get your ice cold glass of lemonade!
Hurry, 'fore it's gone.
We made it just this morning.
See the table that it's on?

We promise that you'll like it
and there's sugar in it, too --
not like it was the other day
when mom and dad said "Ewwwww."

Get your ice cold glass of lemonade!
Boy, grownups sure are funny --
they smile a lot at little kids
who are trying to make money.

Thank you, ma'am, and thank you, sir,
you've helped us out a bunch.
Sissy, let's go make some more.
It's almost time for lunch.

Get your ice cold glass of lemonade!
Only fifteen cents a glass!
We've got to make more money
and we've got to make it fast.

Daddy said it wouldn't work,
that people wouldn't stop.
They'd hurry right on past us
and then they'd laugh a lot.

One last glass of lemonade!
This was so much fun!
Let's get this table put away
and then we've got to run.

Sissy look ... it's snowing!
But that will be all right.
Now we have money for presents
'cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

... my cheeks still ache from the lemon-sour pucker

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Great-Gramma Mystery

I haven't been getting enough sleep lately so, admittedly, I'm a little punchy as I'm writing the blog this morning. I'm in one of those rare moods where just about everything hits me funny. And this started me thinking about children and the zany things that they find funny.

To me, it seems children have a highly developed sense of humor -- for instance, even whisper the word, 'underpants' they'll dissolve into a heap of laughter on the floor. Mention any number of body parts by the anatomically correct name and you'll have a similar reaction. Probably what brings a laughing jag on the quickest of all, though, are the perfectly normal noises (well most are, anyway) a human body makes ... burps, yawns, hiccups, sneezes, tummy rumbles, knee pops, under the arm burps, and of course, every grownup's favorite (NOT), gas ... especially if a grownup has it.

The Great-Gramma Mystery
by CJ Heck

I was with Great-Gramma,
she doesn't walk that fast at all,
so something scary found us
when we shuffled down the hall.

Every time she took a step,
I heard a funny sound.
We stopped -- I couldn’t hear it.
It was quiet all around.

I peeked over to the left,
then I looked to the right,
but we were all alone,
not a monster was in sight.

Maybe it was gone then.
I thought it was safe to go.
(I wished she would go faster!
Great-Gramma walks SO SLOW!)

I told Great-Gramma we should RUN,
the monster could come back.
Great-Gramma said that she’s too old
and running hurts her back.

So we started walking slow again.
Sure enough, the sounds were back!
With every step Great-Gramma took
I could hear the thing attack!

The monster's getting closer!
I heard it, there, and THERE!
Two? Or ten, or maybe more?
Oh no, they're EVERYwhere!

And then I started giggling.
I knew what was chasing us.
Great-Gramma, don’t walk faster ...
your 'barking spiders' have hiccups!

Have a great weekend!

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Kimmy Van Kooten

I would like to share something with you today written by a very good friend of mine. I've known her for several years from a writing community we both belong to, Author's Den, and also Facebook. Please join me in welcoming a very talented published poet, writer, artist, photographer, and a good friend, Kimmy Van Kooten:

Does God Wear Socks?
by Kimmy Van Kooten

Mommy drove her car today (I got to sit up front).
It made me think this of ...
while we drove right past the church
Does God wear socks?

Now you might say, "He must be silly"
But I really want to know
I guess because it bothers me
to think His feet get cold!

Does God wear socks?
Can anybody answer? You?
The reason that I’m asking is ...
I think He has no shoes!

I have a pair of shoes, you see,
they seem to be too small.
Mommy made me wear them
but I think I'm growing tall!

So, I was thinking ...
I could wrap them in a box ...
if God needs these for both feet
Does God wear socks?

Thank you for sharing, Kimmy! Hugs to you, CJ

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Children's Poem: "My Teddy Bear"

Little Girl and Teddy Bear

“There’s just something about a teddy bear that’s impossible to explain. When you hold one in your arms, you get a feeling of love, comfort and security. It’s almost supernatural.”- James Ownby

My Teddy Bear

by CJ Heck

My teddy bear was getting old.
I showed him to my dad.
The threads that made his mouth were gone.
My teddy bear looked so sad.

His round dark eyes were crooked.
His button nose hung down.
It made me cry to look at him,
my teddy bear, soft and brown.

A jagged hole showed stuffing
poking through along one side.
I had to hug him gently,
so it wouldn’t grow more wide.

When Dad showed him to Mommy,
she fixed him up like new.
His button nose was tight again.
His mouth was smiling, too.

His eyes were side by side
just like they used to be,
and when I sat and talked to him,
he looked right back at me.

She pushed the stuffing in again,
then sewed the hole with thread,
and when I went to sleep last night,
he was with me on my bed.

You know that someone loves you
by the little things they do.
Sometimes that means much more
than even saying “I love you.”

(from the book, Barking Spiders 2, by CJ Heck)

Read More Poems from the Book
Buy at Amazon

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Grateful Stone

"Treasure Chest"
"The soul may have many symbols with which it reaches toward God." ~ Anya Seton

Humanity has long believed many symbols to be spiritually sacred. The sideways eight, for example, the symbol for eternity. Another is the endless knot.

Crystals are also symbols and thought to be very powerful for focusing spiritual energies. And who wouldn't recognize the universal symbol for love, the heart?

 For a child, a symbol can be anything at all, and sometimes even the smallest thing can be a sign from God and the Universe that they are not alone.

The Grateful Stone

by CJ Heck

I have a little treasure chest
and only one thing is inside.
It’s a very special treasure
and I found it at low tide.

To me it’s something special.
I call it the grateful stone.
It showed how prayers work.
It's a sign I’m not alone.

My grampa had a heart attack
while we were at the beach.
He lives so very far away,
so far away, and out of reach.

Mommy had her cell phone
and doctors called her there.
When I saw my mommy cry,
I knew I had to try a prayer.

I closed my eyes and talked to God.
Please let Grampa be okay.
Don’t let Mom lose her Daddy.
We can’t go that far away.

When I opened up my eyes
and looked down on the sand,
I saw a shiny little stone
and it felt good in my hand.

I slipped it in my pocket
and I rubbed it two whole days,
praying Grampa would get better
if only God could find a way.

Then mommy’s cell phone rang.
They said Grandpa could go home.
That's why I have my treasure chest
for my special grateful stone.

[From the book, Barking Spiders 2, by CJ Heck]
Buy at Amazon

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Poem: Unopened Letter

Table in the Foyer

"One day you'll love me as I love you. One day you'll think of me as I think of you. One day you'll cry for me as I cry for you. One day you'll want me, but I won't want you." ~Anonymous

Unopened Letter

by CJ Heck

A letter came a week ago.
It was mutely resting
between the potted ivy
and car keys,
marking time
on the cherry table
in the foyer.
It's unopened, of course,
but on first touching it,
holding it,
memories crept unbidden
from her heart.
She knew what it said
but couldn't make herself
read the words.
She knew they were angry.
She knew they were written
to demand in yet one more way
what she didn't have to give.
She walked by it
a thousand times,
even held it
close to her heart once or twice.
Maybe if she didn't read it
the words would somehow
and say what she needed
most to hear,
but he was never into
apologies or forgiveness.
What's that spot
there, on the table,
... a tear?

What a sorrowful
waste of a stamp.

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Monday, August 2, 2010

Introducing Matthew

Today, I would like to share someone very special with you.  Matthew is my grandson, and Matthew is autistic. 

Matty's dad is a Marine.  They lived at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, where he was diagnosed much earlier than the state of North Carolina allows, because my daughter pushed and insisted.  She knew something was wrong because Matthew wasn't progressing like his older brother, Will, had.

Once he was diagnosed, doctors told my daughter that Matty was severely autistic -- he may never learn to speak.  After the initial shock and the grief of acceptance, my daughter took that as a personal challenge because she loved Matty.  She taught him to sign. 

As a direct result of her unwavering love and by signing and speaking everything aloud with Matthew, my daughter eventually broke through his autistic barriers.  He suddenly understood the connection between sign and words, and Matthew began talking ... and in full sentences.  I am so proud of my daughter and her family for the love and strength they've shown.  They are an inspiration to everyone ...

I am Matty, I am ME
by CJ Heck (Grammy CJ)

I’ve got this thing called autism
that can lock you up inside
but I am me, I’m Matty,
and I’m learning not to hide.

The state was slow to test me.
Mommy made them walk the line.
They said I might not talk
so mommy taught me how to sign.

There’s nothing slow about me.
Everywhere I go, I run.
I’m always on my tiptoes,
and I flap my arms when I have fun.

I love climbing and pretending,
I know movies word for word,
and now that I have learned to talk,
I repeat things till I’m heard.

I’m just like any other boy
in many, many ways,
but I like things to stay the same
so I won’t melt down today.

I have this thing called autism,
but I am Matty. I am ME.
I’ve unlocked my world inside
‘cause my mommy held the key.

Note: Now, nearly five years since this poem was written, I am proud to say, Matthew is among the students at the top of his class and in a normal school setting. He's a wonderful little boy, with a delightful sense of humor and a loving disposition.  He's both outgoing and outspoken and he's totally fearless. When I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, here is how he answered:

"I'm going to be a scientist.  I'm going to invent a new rocket fuel for space travel and I'll have lots of cats and dogs in my laboratory to keep me company ..."

I love you, Matty-Man!
Grammy CJ

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